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Reasons to Quit
Michelle Bitting

Not because I got tired of waking up every morning with a sour taste in my mouth, or seeing my teeth in the mirror slowly morph from white to brown. I loved smoking. Nothing better than a long hot drag off an Export A late at night when the kids are down, kitchen door propped open, a glass of wine and blowing smoke rings at the moon while the silhouettes of two mop head palms stare down in rebel glee. And not because I’m interested in reaching some grand ripe age like my Grandma Vera who turned ninety in December. Every day she peels the hair net from her silvered head, makes a pot of coffee and thanks God for her good health. Then she thanks him again because she can’t remember what happened five minutes ago which makes hanging out with her a lot like perpetual déjà vu: you could swear you’ve been there before, that she just asked you who gave her the box of See’s candy she’s been nibbling from her lap the past hour, could swear you already answered “me, Grandma” because she did and you have. There is comfort to be found drowning in the echo of existence. As with reincarnation—that jumpy, buzzing-in-circles feeling says maybe you were a flea once, says let’s imagine death as a trip through the cosmic recycling plant. Some say meditating on a mantra may spark epiphany—through repetition you learn to let go and love yourself, the human panoply mirrored around. If you look back twenty years to my first cigarette and then fast-forward to that sweet and final puff, you’d lose count numbering the inhalations between. I have two small children now, and have learned to take pleasure in the redundancy of everything from tangled laces to an unwiped bottom. I don’t care how long I live; each moment’s death rides its own immortal wave. But there are things not to be missed—like the last time we saw Grandma she was needlepointing holders for their crayons, oblivious to how many she’s made already, heaps of these yarn-shrouded boxes stacked in my closets back home. Little Buddhas, they sat at her feet, mesmerized by her bony hands weaving rainbows through the fields of white mesh—how three sides connected make a kind of mini coffin for their waxen sticks, the lid she fastens at the end to shut them in, packing all that color away, for now, into the dark.

Find out more about Michelle Bitting here.

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